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Joel R

[Guide] Joel's Guide to Starting A Club

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Level:  Newbie

Time:  10 minutes of reading. 

Topic: Clubs

=============================

Hi everyone,  

One of the most exciting features of Invision Community 4 is the new Clubs feature, which gives community admins the ability to start clubs as micro-communities within the larger community.  You can use clubs as knowledge centers, social groups, or a niche extension of your main community.  

For the past several months, I've been recruiting a group of 2,000+ members from another platform and I wanted to share some best practices and tips that I've learned along the way.  It's not easy to successfully pull this off, but it can be one of the best ways to grow your community in new and exciting ways!  

============================

WHY START A CLUB

Before I begin talking about the process of migrating a club over, I want to first talk about why you should start a club.  From a broad perspective, there are two ways to grow your community.  The first is organic / internal growth where you identify and nurture key users who will become superusers over time.  This can be challenging since - as every admin knows - there's a grind to attracting new members and adding new content, and there's a luck-of-the-draw if a member turns out to become a passionate and dedicated superuser.  Unfortunately, we know most users are not superusers.  The second is outside growth, where you merge and acquire another group.  This provides transformative growth in a much shorter time horizon:    

  • New Leaders:  You bring on new leaders and experienced community managers who have a proven record in leading their own communities, so you gain administrative and managerial knowledge from users who already successfully run their own group.  The only thing better than running your own successful community is letting other people run it for you!  This is critical as you grow your community, since you'll need respected and trusted staff members.  By bringing on a group with its own Group Leader, you've immediately gained a new staff member.
  • New Human Capital:  You may not be able to import the content.  But you gain something far more valuable: the human capital and intellectual knowledge of a new group of passionate users.  This is invaluable, and you can add those new members to the vibrancy of your overall community.  Aim for not just one community, but a community of communities where your users can grow and expand their knowledge with fresh perspectives and new knowledge from the combined human capital.  
  • New Heart:  You inject fresh life into the heart-and-soul of the community.  As every long-time forum admin knows, a community grows stale over time.  Cliques develop, superusers emerge, elaborate hierarchies become entrenched, and members become complacent.   Adding on a large group of leaders, users, and content shakes up the status quo, and gets both old and new users excited over the change.  Your community needs to evolve and grow, since the only principle that's constant is change.    

The best part of all is that you're not growing your community over years through organic / internal growth.  You're boosting your community over months by migrating over a large group of users who can immediately get up-and-running in your Invision Community.  

Now is especially the time to be thinking about expanding your community against the backdrop of major upheavals in the attitudes toward major social networks.  Facebook is getting hit every day by bad news: Cambridge Analytica, congressional hearings, invite spam, developer abuse, stolen passwords, biased news feeds, and most of all, the trust of users.  It's time to take advantage of that mistrust by showing users there's a better and cleaner platform: your Invision Community, where you're not in the business of selling user data, but in building a trusted and respectful knowledge community.  By hosting your own Invision Community, you control your own destiny and data -- something that many users are realizing they gave up when they joined Facebook. 

============================

FINDING A GROUP

Chances are that you already know groups that can be possible candidates to join your community because you're already a part of them.  Or, there could be groups of users within your existing community who want a chance at running their own micro-community.  Here are a couple of basic steps to help you find the right group to bring over:

  1. Survey your existing network -- Go through your web bookmarks, your daily browsing, members within your own community, your social networks, and your friend's networks.  If you're dedicated to this niche as a passionate forum admin, you probably have a decent network even if you don't realize it simply through years of browsing.  Revisit and rejoin all of them in a broad survey.  
  2. Ask -- You probably don't do this enough.  Identify superusers within your network, and simply ask what communities or websites they've joined.  They'll be happy to share, and you'll learn about some great new communities that you never heard about before.  Every time I do this, I'm blown away by all the other great websites and hidden gems out there.  

Now that you've surveyed a broad section of groups, not all of them will be appropriate candidates.  It's time to filter them out:

  1. Cultural fit -- This is probably the most important thing to help you filter.  You need to find a group that matches with your community in terms of style, attitude, moderation, and leadership.  Finding the right people to join your community's culture is the most important step.  It's less important to bring on a big group with many members.  It's more important to bring on the right group, because you'll be more successful in the long-run since they will embrace your community as a good match.  
  2. Find their pain points -- Find a group that is unhappy with their current situation.  It's very hard to bring over a group that's happy, successful, and growing.  They have no need to change anything.  It's easy to bring over a group that's angry or upset over something.  Why?  Because you can present a solution to their pain with your Invision Community and all of its tools,, while offering the same features or better.  

==========================

PREPARING 

Before you dive headfirst into your new group - and I get it, you're excited! - remember to take a step back.  Bringing on a new group is a big step.  This might be one of the biggest steps you'll take in your community's trajectory as you bring on the next generation of users and leaders, so you want to take it slowly and methodically.  Here are some steps to get you on the right track:

  1. Join the other group and become a respected user, if not already.  You don't have to become a superuser, but you must earn a level of respect.  You need to come across as knowledgeable, competent, and a leader.  Remember that you're asking a random stranger on the Internet to not only put the destiny of his group in your hands, but to voluntarily trust you as his leader when he's been the head boss the entire time.  Be the community leader that you know you are.  You're no longer the captain of a boat, but admiral of a fleet.  
  2. Find the pain points -- Again, this is critical in making your pitch later to the new group.  Find 2 - 3 things that are problems or drawbacks to their existing platform, so you can use them later.  You can either do some basic research yourself or start probing the group's users about what they don't like.  
  3. Draft up your club -- Create a working version of an IP.Club that mimics the existing group as much as possible.  Copy everything.  Copy their name, description, banner, registration text, anything to make the club appear as comfortable and familiar to them as possible.  Limit the features.  Make the initial set of features as easy as possible.  You can always add on later, and you don't want to overwhelm them.  Just remember when you started your first forum and how you had no clue where anything was located.  

Now that you've scoped out the existing group and understand your strategy, it's time to bring over the initial wave of users.  This is the leader and their superusers.  Your goal during this "pre-migration" is to build up a level of comfort and trust in what you have to offer.  To emphasize, this is where you build your trust in the new platform, get them excited, and show them there's a better way forward for their group.  As the most important note, they must trust you most of all.  Invision Community will be overwhelming for users who think the world communicates with status updates, tweets, and snaps; users will have a hard time registering; and there will be complaints and pessimism over the change.  But the Group Leader must unquestionably know that you are always available, supportive, nurturing, and invested in his success.  Win over the Group Leader, and you've won his entire group.  

  1. Make the pitch -- Now that you've done your research, make your pitch to the Group Leader.  Use language that's simple and direct.  Hit the pain points and show them your solution.  Then add how your platform on Invision Community is better than what they're using.  Finally, give him the link to your pre-built club that already mimics what he's used to.
  2. Hold his hand -- The initial impression of the Group Leader is the most important impression you'll ever make, since he's the most important user to convince.  So hold his hand, check in with him on a daily basis, don't overwhelm him with every little feature, and let him move at his own pace.  He needs to explore and understand the group on his own.  
  3. Make members join his group -- Get some of your existing users to join his group.  Get your fake user accounts to join his group.  That excites the Group Leader over the new possibilities and new members that he can tap into.   
  4. Bring over superusers -- You can either ask the Group Leader for his superusers, or you can message them directly to invite them over.  Usually superusers are intellectually curious, proactive, and enthusiastic so they'll embrace and try out the new club.  Your goal is to make them feel comfortable and welcome.  One of the superusers I brought over is now one of the biggest users on my community overall; he's incredibly active in other parts of the community beyond just the club and regularly wins the Leaderboard.  
  5. Get the Group Owner posting -- Make the club his new home and get him posting all of his content in the club.  He can still link to the club's content in his old group by using the URL, but it should be the primary source of his posting from here on out.  

==========================

MIGRATION

Now for the migration of the userbase.  This is actually the least important step, even though most admins skip to this step.  But you're smarter, and you've done extension preparation and communication with the Group Leader and his superusers.  The migration of users will naturally follow.  What I've learned is that you don't want to rush the migration.  Make it slow.  Make it steady.  Drip out information over time.   Imagine pushing a boulder.  It's very hard to start a roll in the beginning.  But as it starts rolling, it becomes easier and easier as the boulder picks up momentum.  

  1. Mention the club's link in the other group -- As I stated, you start out slow with the userbase.  Casually mention your community's URL or the new club URL as a good place for resources.  Users will be naturally curious and will start checking out the club on their own.  Drip out the URL a couple of times.  
  2. Get the Group Leader to start mentioning the new home -- It doesn't have to be a formal announcement yet, but the Group Leader should be including the move in his signature, daily updates, or announcements to the group.   
  3. Hold his hand -- You need to be checking in every week and fine-tuning the group to his liking.  Does he want to add on a new section or eliminate a section?  Does he want to customize the group's description and make it his own?  Does he want to change the club type or permissions?  Remember that the new Group Leader is not going to be an expert in Invision Community much less the Moderator or Administrator controls, so you need to make it as easy and painless for him as possible.  

You should be seeing a trickle of users at this point, where users are naturally moving over.  Depending upon how quickly you and the Group Leader want to migrate over, you can ramp up the migration.  You should also be applying more pressure to the Group Leader.

  1. Big Announcement -- This is what I call the "come to Jesus" moment.  This is where you and / or the Group Leader announce to everyone "We're moving.  It's time to pack up and go to our new home."  It would be best if you were involved in this big announcement or write your own welcoming announcement, because there are several key things you must do.  Remember that this is your first chance to formally introduce yourself to the userbase even though you're a respected user, so they're now seeing you in a new light.  In your message, you should: explain your own backstory, explain why they should move (remember those pain points??), and tell them how you'll be a nurturing, supportive, encouraging co-leader who is always available for help.  If you notice, I didn't even bother to explain how to register.  It's more important to get users to understand your background, which builds trust.  It's more important to get users to understand why they should move, which builds motivation.  And it's more important to get users to know you're a supportive admin, which alleviates their fear during this time of change.  Ultimately, the users must trust and like you as the new co-leader, which is what's most important in a monumental change like this.  It's not until your second or third big announcement that you need to explain how to actually register on your website.  
  2. Constant Drumbeat -- Now that you've broadcast the migration, you and the Club Leader keep up a steady drumbeat in every post, status update, and announcement about the move.  You will have users who can't or don't read, which is why you must repeat this migration over and over.  Your only goal during this time is to get them to register and join the club.  You should also be sending out positive updates like the number of new users who joined, the new content that's being posted, and all the amazing things that are happening.  
  3. Audit the Club -- The club should be self-functioning at this time since the Club Leader is already using it for his day to day posting.  But you should take a step back and let him know you'll be doing a full audit from beginning to end.  The purpose of this audit is not to critique the club or his moderation, but to keep encouraging him to get users to move over, embrace more features in IP.Clubs, and to remind him that you want to see him succeed.   

While you're migrating over users, don't try to rush it.  These things happen on their own natural cycle and you can't force it.  Some users may not check in for many weeks.  Some users may register on your club tomorrow before you even make the Big Announcement.  Don't try to cram too much information all at once on them.  This is a brand new platform that users are learning, and it's much more complex and feature-rich than most other platforms.  Take it slow.  Send out small and digestible updates over time.  And remember to keep checking in with the new Group Leader with lots of supportive and encouraging words during this move. 

==========================

 

 

I hope this personal guide inspires, motivates, and shows you a path to launching your own club!  It's time to promote yourself from one community to a community of communities ?.  As a fellow IPS client and community admin, I would love to hear your success stories, tips, and first-hand experiences when launching a club.  I do believe running an independent community on a flexible platform like Invision Community is the best way to chart your own destiny on the modern web, and we're given one of the most amazing tools in Invision Community to host and attract blocs of people.  Our Invision Communities are a better choice for groups and clubs than social networks:  we're independent, we're passionate, and we serve our members first and foremost.  Now we need to take that message out into the world, show other users there's a better and smarter way to run their group, and add to the vibrancy of our own community.  

Edited by Joel R

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As a follow-up, if you know if any groups on the following platforms, you should be checking them out to move them over to your community:

  • IcyBoards
  • Tapatalk
  • Yahoo! Groups
  • Facebook Groups

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Sounds interesting. Do you wish to elaborate more on the practical details in applying this approach? I.e., what was the percentage of converts you have so far and did the other group completely died off or they are existing in parallel right now? Aren't there issues with new people joining the new club? Facebook is very good at exposing the group to many users, it will be much harder to expose the club to the same audience. 

Basically, it all sounds very good from your description, but I want to know what are the major issues you faced and how you dealt with them ?

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We're letting the two groups exist in parallel because it's a slow migration.  It's already been two months and I'm forecasting another 2 - 3 months.  I didn't want it to be a sudden change, and even though I've been working with the Group Leader for many months it was only until 2 weeks ago that I sent out a Big Announcement officially welcoming them over.  

The users do have difficulty registering and joining.  It's a two-step process and users don't follow both steps (register on community, then join club).  This is a pain point with Clubs.  When the Group Leader promotes the URL, he's not promoting my general registration, he's promoting his specific club.  So we have members who join the overall community, but then forget to join the closed group and scream about how they don't have permissions and yadda yadda life sucks and they can't see anything.  

 

Edited by Joel R

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This is the email that I sent out recently to encourage members to move over.  Concurrent with this announcement, the Group Leader reduced the amount of daily interaction through his prior communication channel (Yahoo Groups), and is making daily posts in his club forums now as a replacement.  This is to force users to wean off Yahoo Groups and use more of my community.

This is a letter that I hope will inspire you to make a compelling pitch to your new members.  

=============================================

(Lightly edited to make it generic)

This is the third email and reminder to help you move to "###GROUPNAME," the new home on the web for ###GROUPLEADER.  For the past several months, ###GROUPLEADER and I have been working hard at setting up his new group on ####MYCOMMUNITY.com.  We would like to continue the transition over, and to take time to explain why you should move.  
 
I understand that Yahoo Groups has been your home for several years.  I'm not here to replace Yahoo Groups -- I'm here to offer a better, safer, and more modern experience for ###GROUPLEADER and you.  
 
YAHOO
  • Yahoo is selling itself -- Yahoo is a part of Oath, which is a part of Verizon.  They don't care about Yahoo, which is a former shell of its heyday.  They don't care about Yahoo Groups, which has been dying a long death over many years.  Marissa Mayer is more concerned about her golden parachute than she is about ###YOURGROUP.  
  • Yahoo is terrible at security -- Yahoo announced in 2016 they had two separate hacking attempts that affected 500 million and 1 billion.  Your email is being used as toilet paper for some Russian hacker.  
  • Yahoo is intrusive -- Yahoo wants to sell you ads when you browse.  Yahoo wants to force their search on you.  Yahoo wants you to whitelist Yahoo mail so you can get more ads, or you can download a toolbar that changes all of your browser settings.  When you don't pay for something, YOU are the product that they're selling.  
Ultimately, the biggest problem is that Yahoo Groups is no longer a good home for ###GROUPLEADER and you.  They have not modernized the platform, encouraged activity, or expanded new features to stay current.  I recognized that many years ago.  I was once a member of over 30 Yahoo groups, and got my start from incredible people in Yahoo Groups.  Out of those 30 groups, only 2 are regularly active.  It's time to move on, and I'm here to offer you a new home.  You're not required to join, but I hope you will.  
 
###MYCOMMUNITY
  • We're independent -- We're a small, independent community that cares about offering the very best for you and ###GROUPLEADER.  Why?  Because I've been there myself and I wanted to offer a new home for my own collection in the beginning.  We control our own destiny by not being tied to Yahoo.
  • We're safe -- We offer a multitude of safety and security features as a best practice.  I recognize firsthand the dangers and risks of being a member of an online community, which is why we protect our members to the fullest extent possible.  You can set up security questions, 2-Factor Authentication, and to control and edit your profile anytime you want in your Account Settings.  
  • We're here to serve you, not sell you -- What makes us the right home for you and ###GROUPLEADER is that my mission is not to sell you ads, products, subscriptions.  My primary mission is to ensure we have the best possible home for ###GROUPLEADER's collection whether it's gallery, downloads, or more and to ensure you have an amazing user experience.  
  • We're modern -- The website looks beautiful on all devices from smartphones, tablets, or desktop.  We have modern features for notifications, follows, reactions, emojis, and more.  We're always updating to the newest version of the software for the latest in security fixes, bugs, and features.  
  • We're stewards -- What makes us fundamentally different is that we're a community, not a corporation.  This means that, at our core, we believe in and are entrusted in our mission to preserve and display the collective contributions from thousands of members like you and ###GROUPLEADER.  
  • We're fans of ###NICHE -- When you join, you get immediate access to ###GROUPLEADER's entire collection of 28,000 photos and files at your fingertip.  The overall ###MYCOMMUNITY website is x10 larger.  That means more ###NICHE, NICHE, NICHE and everything in between.  
When you join ####MYCOMMUNITY.com, you're joining a group of like-minded folks who are passionate about ###NICHE.  You're joining a platform that already houses some of the Internet's finest collections in ###NICHE.  And you're becoming a part of something greater, to help build ###GOAL.  It's free, safe, modern, and available immediately.  
 
I understand change is hard.  And I understand registering on the website is a hassle.  But I firmly believe we're offering a better home for you and ###GROUPLEADER.  
 
Your Name,
Your Title

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I just offered a second invitation to a guy to start his own club on my site.  He checks all the things I'm looking for:

  • Successful group leader of an existing club on another platform
  • Large amount of content to share
  • Pain point with his existing group  

 

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1 hour ago, Joel R said:

 

  • Successful group leader of an existing club on another platform

 

Which platform does he use? social network or forum?

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Great read @Joel R!

I love the forward thinking and your approach of doing things.

I have always been cautious with anything Clubs or Groups. Basically, I've stayed away from them. Ok, ok ... truthfully, I tell everyone to RUN.

But...

I have been giving this a lot of thought the last few months.

I struggle with...

  1. Private or Public Clubs or both?
  2. Restrict Club to domain focus/niche or free-for-all? eg. if your site is about baseball should a Club on Knitting be allowed? Iif too many non-niche Clubs can it dilute the value of the brand?)
  3. Display Club topics in stream? (because of #2)
  4. Free to any member to open? Charge to open? Or open manually for just those you think will work?
Regarding #4 - there's a lot of time and effort that goes into creating a successful Club. I figure if they pay for services they may put more time into the success of the Club. (I often see deserted Clubs more than I like to see.)

There are pros and cons.

What I do know is that we will be targeting associations who have successful facebook groups. I never thought about yahoo groups but it's and interesting idea. So, I will be looking into that as well when ready. With these groups, it will be a joint venture to ensure success.

 

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On 6/2/2018 at 7:16 PM, Joel R said:

The users do have difficulty registering and joining.  It's a two-step process and users don't follow both steps (register on community, then join club).  This is a pain point with Clubs.  When the Group Leader promotes the URL, he's not promoting my general registration, he's promoting his specific club.  So we have members who join the overall community, but then forget to join the closed group and scream about how they don't have permissions and yadda yadda life sucks and they can't see anything. 

I appreciate your insights. This is something I have never thought about.

This is a very critical step.

I suggest creating a referral link for Clubs. (custom request perhaps)
The idea is to save the info and then target the user with email, notifications, etc.  (onboarding to get member to join Club immediately after registering)

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On 12/18/2018 at 8:13 PM, princeton said:
  1. Private or Public Clubs or both?
  2. Restrict Club to domain focus/niche or free-for-all? eg. if your site is about baseball should a Club on Knitting be allowed? Iif too many non-niche Clubs can it dilute the value of the brand?)
  3. Display Club topics in stream? (because of #2)
  4. Free to any member to open? Charge to open? Or open manually for just those you think will work?
Regarding #4 - there's a lot of time and effort that goes into creating a successful Club. I figure if they pay for services they may put more time into the success of the Club. (I often see deserted Clubs more than I like to see.)

I just saw this message and you definitely bring up some interesting points.  But, I also think you're over-thinking it. 🤔  

1.  Private or Public?  That depends on the needs of the club.  I actually have three types of clubs active right now on my community: 2 Open, 1 Closed, 1 Private.  They needs of the club will dictate the club type.  For example:

  • 2 Open: These are my two main clubs.  It's open for anyone to visit and view, but you need to join to post.  These are both self-sustaining independent clubs with their own club leaders and staff.  
  • 1 Closed: This is a more intimate club where the club leader didn't want others to view her content so she could offer a safe space.  This is a very small group with a very private conversation.  
  • 1 Private: This is my private club that I use for training and communicating with my superusers.  It's like an inner circle.  This is by invitation only, very exclusive, and not listed on the club index.  

2.  This depends on what you're comfortable with and the scope of your community.  I think one of the best uses of clubs can be used to incrementally grow your community into niches that you don't normally serve.  But if you think it's too irrelevant, then don't allow it.  You're the admin, so you choose how you want to grow your community.  

4.  This is the most important point.  It takes a LOT of time and effort that goes into creating a successful club, which is why I don't allow members to open clubs.  

I only create clubs for leaders that have a prior history of running a successful club on another platform.  That's my secret.  I migrate over groups from other platforms to my community.  There are some requirements that I personally use: more than 2,000 users, good friendship and fit with leaders, and same shared values.  But they needed to already be successful, active, and with a large membership before I invited them over.  And then with all the resources that I can offer to them through Clubs, I can help turbocharge their activity.  

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I wanted to update this guide with real results to show the transformative power of clubs and bringing on external groups of people.  Bringing in external groups provides an immediate boost to your community.  Club members and activity are now such a large part of my community (1/4 of all daily activity on site) that I rearranged the menus and homepage to make clubs my second biggest focus of the entire suite.  They're some of my biggest sources of activity and engagement now.

This is a real screenshot of my ACP of Community Activity.  I still have a small site by most IPS standards but I'm tryin'!  

388609267_CommunityActivity2.thumb.JPG.2600d52c8a06a3524daf752ef960cdbc.JPG

You can clearly see when I started bringing on my first group.  You can also see when I brought on my second group.  And 'm in the process of migrating my third group now.  

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Hey @Joel R 

I'm considering contacting old communities based on php nuke and phpbb with a similar niche than mine to offer the possibility to work inside my project using clubs.

However, I have the feeling that the first question they will ask is,  can we export what we have already published? at least the main topics? 
Have they ever said something like this ? and not sure if that is possible, I guess not.

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Hi @gabs007

Good job on trying to reach out to old communities.  You'll be able to bring new life and revitalize those boards.  You'll also be able to consolidate your niche and become a leading source of information.  

Yes, the most recent group that I migrated a couple of weeks ago (going on #3!).  They wanted to migrate their topics.  Luckily, they were on an IPS 4 installation so we did a conversion into my community.  You should check the converter, but I believe phpBB is supported.  

Even though we migrated everything, to be honest, we only kept a small portion.  (Maybe 1/5 of everything).  The core of their "useful" information was very small.  Everything else was social, announcements, games, general chat, etc.  Also, you might be able to get away with only importing their members.  

One thing to keep in mind when you make an offer is to find their pain.  People won't make a change because it's the right thing to do.  People will only make a change when there's a problem, and you can offer a solution.  

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3 hours ago, tonyv said:

^Yes, but is it ethical to steal members from other communities?!:ohmy::biggrin:

Not stealing. 
The idea is to use the contact form on their website, introduce yourself and investigate the option to convert their community and merge it into yours. It's all about being polite; saying something like "my software is better and my niche is probably bigger, so you would fit and keep your independence." Many of these guys have issues, like poor servers, poor software and as Joel says, there is always something you can offer that they don't have.

In my case, most of these websites have such a small niche, that they would fit perfectly into a club. For example, one of the communities has 4 forums and 1 of them is for the rules. What my community need is users and what they probably need is infrastructure .. so this is more like a mutual agreement. 

 

5 hours ago, Joel R said:

Yes, the most recent group that I migrated a couple of weeks ago (going on #3!).  They wanted to migrate their topics.  Luckily, they were on an IPS 4 installation so we did a conversion into my community.  You should check the converter, but I believe phpBB is supported.  

ok .. I thought you could only use the migration tools at the beginning. I didn't know converters could import data from anywhere. 

 

5 hours ago, Joel R said:

One thing to keep in mind when you make an offer is to find their pain.  People won't make a change because it's the right thing to do.  People will only make a change when there's a problem, and you can offer a solution.  

I think the most difficult part for me will be to convince them to move, since I'm newer and they are older in this niche. My expertise and reputation is based on adult communities, nothing to do with this new niche I'm interested in. Since I'm the rookie, they might be afraid that I get tired and close. 
And there is also this thing when you have a bigger idea,  you can easily look arrogant if you use the wrong words.
For now I plan to work for 2 months and start contacting them.
 

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